Justice Department Secures the Denaturalization of Individual Convicted of Impersonating An Immigration Officer to Defraud Other Immigrants Residing Unlawfully in the United States
On Aug. 21, Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered an order that revoked the naturalized U.S. citizenship of a fraudster and immigration-officer impersonator, restrained and enjoined her from claiming any rights, privileges, or advantages of U.S. citizenship, and ordered her to immediately surrender and deliver her Certificate of Naturalization and any other indicia of U.S. citizenship to federal authorities, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) jointly announced.
“The Justice Department is committed to preserving the integrity of our nation’s immigration system and the propriety of the government’s adjudication of immigration benefits,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will aggressively pursue the denaturalization of individuals who lie on their naturalization applications, especially in a circumstance like this one, which involved an alien who masqueraded as an immigration officer and was convicted of defrauding nine aliens of thousands of dollars in exchange for false promises of facilitating immigration benefits.”
Araceli Martinez aka Maria Araceli Ramos de Martinez, 53, a native of Mexico, pleaded guilty in September 2012 to Obtaining Money, Labor or Property by False Pretense in violation of California Penal Code § 532(a) in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles. Between June 2011 and March 2012, Martinez engaged in a scheme in which she impersonated a U.S. immigration officer. Martinez falsely represented that undocumented immigrants could hire her to assist them in obtaining legal status, defrauding her victims of thousands of dollars without ever submitting any paperwork on their behalf. Martinez applied to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen in the midst of engaging in her fraudulent scheme. While under oath during her naturalization interview, Martinez stated that she had never committed a crime or offense for which she was not arrested. Relying on this answer, USCIS granted her naturalization application and Martinez became a U.S. citizen later that year. When the Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court to initiate denaturalization proceedings in April 2017, Martinez was incarcerated in the Mendocino County jail in Ukiah, California, serving a two-year sentence for a December 2015 conviction for felony grand theft.
“This order sends a clear message to individuals who commit fraud during the naturalization process – we will investigate you and seek you out to ensure that justice is done,” said Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan. “ICE will continue to work with our partners at the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation – District Court Section to hold individuals responsible for their fraudulent conduct, especially those pretending to be government officials.”
“I congratulate the trial team for bringing Araceli Martinez to justice,” said USCIS Acting Director James McCament. “Ms. Martinez fraudulently obtained her citizenship and then made false representations that exploited other immigrants. By doing so, she threatened to undermine the hard work our officers do every day to protect the integrity of the immigration system. USCIS is glad to see her held accountable.”
This case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force and the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section (OIL-DCS). The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Tim Belsan of OIL-DCS’s National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit, with support from ICE Senior Attorney Jillian Woods.